Picnics and barbecues seem so inextricably tied to the summer, but in my own, humble opinion, they are made for the British winter (it’s never exactly the arctic here). What could be better than the fresh air on your cheeks, a hot cup of tea in your hands, and a flaming barbecue to warm your cockles?
Fires alight, decorations glittering, Christmas cards dropping through the postbox, aromas of mulled wine wafting through the house, present buying (and wrapping), brisk walks through an icy countryside, chocolates, sweets, and hearty meals to warm you up, hot water bottles, popping crackers, chunky scarves and woolly jumpers.The meaning of winter. But why don’t we shake things up a little, and add “picnics” to that festive list?
I was met with a virtually indignant look when I asked for a disposable barbecue at B & Q in mid-December. “No, we only stock those in summer. Barbecues are a summer thing,” he added.
“Barbecues in winter?” he presumably thought, “Is she mad? What’s she going to ask for next? Deckchairs?” Well, yes, actually, because who wants to sit on a wet floor for a picnic? Certainly not me.
My picnicking companion and good friend, Sarah, accompanied me on my winter picnic. It was a foggy but dry, 7 degree Celsius day – perfect for a hot lunch in the great outdoors. Our adventures included barbecuing in a wood on private property. A double whammy of a no-no apparently (unbeknownst to me, let it be said).
Aside from the illegal activities of two clueless picnickers, it was simply a delightful picnic. A steaming celery soup for starters, a bulgur wheat, lemon and dill salad, and barbecued beer-back bacon from the Suffolk Foodhall inside two deliciously soft butties comprised the main substance of the picnic, alongside olives for picking and tea for warming.
But a winter picnic needs a certain pomp to make it worthy of the festive season. Mini hot water bottles, warm woolen blankets, silver Thermos flasks, sparkling decoration, deckchairs, silver cutlery, and real china, finished with a flourish by two mini Christmas crackers, made an ordinary picnic into a truly festive picnic.
After setting up this winter wonderland of a picnic, a man in a jeep somehow managed to weave his way to our picnicking spot in order to tell us that this was private property. Only Scrooge could tell us to move off after seeing two innocent girls backed by such a sparkling setup (we hid the barbecue… OK, we did know that we’re not allowed to barbecue in the wood. But it’s wet, and it’s winter, and we cleared it up afterwards). So he simply said “You can stay there for now, but make sure you’re gone by the morning.”
“I think he thinks we’re travellers,” Sarah mused. “…or doggers.”
Well, he can think what he likes. We were too busy sipping soup, munching on hot bacon butties, and playing Christmas cracker charades, an interesting and slightly dubious introduction to which Sarah gave with the example of “football”.